PROVIDENCE, RI - In an effort to ensure that the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census does not undercount segments of the Rhode Island population, Governor Gina M. Raimondo today signed an executive order establishing the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee.
"We only get one shot at this, and it's absolutely critical that we get it right," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "The results of this Census will have serious implications for our state for the next decade, which is why it's so important that every single Rhode Islander is counted. This Committee will help us do just that."
The U.S. Census Bureau identifies certain groups of residents as "hard-to-count" populations. These groups have traditionally been undercounted in previous census processes. They include, but are not limited to: racial and ethnic minorities, non-fluent English speakers, lower-income persons, homeless individuals, undocumented immigrants, young adults, children and members of the LGBTQ community.
"A lot is at stake in the upcoming Census and Rhode Island needs to prepare to count everyone," said John Marion, Executive Director at Common Cause Rhode Island. "A successful Census is critical to making sure our state has full and fair political representation and that tax dollars sent to Washington return Rhode Island to provide crucial services. Establishing a statewide Complete Count Committee is an important first step to making sure we count all Rhode Islanders in 2020."
An accurate Census count is needed for communities to receive appropriate federal funding and adequate representation in Congress. A Complete Count Committee, which will include representatives of traditionally hard-to-count populations, will develop and coordinate a census outreach program to increase awareness about the Census and motivate residents in their communities to respond.
"A decade's worth of federal funding for the Ocean State's most vulnerable residents and communities will be determined by our shared commitment to accurately count every Rhode Islander," said Nancy Wolanski, Director of the Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island. "We need to make sure that every resident counts, and is counted, and that will require the full engagement of Rhode Island government, business, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in order to make Census 2020 a success. The preparation needs to start now, so we are pleased that the Governor has begun this process by establishing the Statewide Complete Count Committee."
"Everybody counts. That's the message we need to convey: we need to be certain that we are moving beyond traditional models of counting all of our populations, so that we include those who are disadvantaged, underrepresented, vulnerable, and hard-to-count," said Meredith Brady, Associate Director for the Division of Statewide Planning, which is Rhode Island's State Data Center for U.S. Census Data and will provide staff support for the committee. "Census data provides the basis for distributing funds from federal, state, and private sector sources. The importance of accurate Census data cannot be overstated."
The Governor is appointing Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott to serve as co-chairs of the committee. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, the committee will also include members of the following groups:
Local governments; The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns; Hard-to-count populations; A federally-recognized Native American tribe located in Rhode Island; The business community, including a representative of minority-owned business; K-12 and higher education; Youth; Senior citizens; The philanthropic community Organized labor; The faith community; and The health care community
"I am humbled to have been selected to co-chair this crucial initiative to make sure that every Rhode Islander is counted in the Census," said Central Falls Mayor James Diossa. "And I am thrilled to get started building our statewide committee because so much is at stake for Rhode Island's middle class: from education to health care to housing to potentially losing one of our two congressional representatives. For Rhode Island's future, we need to get this right."
"From analyzing patterns of disease, to making decisions about the future of our health system, to understanding the factors that underlie health trends-such as income, education, and housing-accurate census information is absolutely critical to our work to help every community in Rhode Island be as healthy as possible," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "The Rhode Island Complete Count Committee will be working to ensure that every Rhode Islander is a part of 2020 U.S. Census, regardless of their ZIP code, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, level of education, or level of income. Every single Rhode Islander counts."
The committee will be tasked with developing and recommending a census outreach strategy to encourage full participation in the 2020 federal Census. They will be required to submit an interim report to the Governor and General Assembly leadership by March 1, 2019. A final report is due June 30, 2019 and the committee will officially disband on December 31, 2020, at which point the census process will have ended.
"If every Rhode Islander is not counted, then we are going to lose critical dollars for our Housing Authorities, our Health Centers and our Schools," stated Senator Sandra Cano. "It is critical that the Complete Count Committee gets started right away so that our state doesn't lose out in this every ten year national count."
"An accurate and complete census count is vital to the State of Rhode Island. It is imperative that we count every single person, especially those in 'hard-to-count' populations. With the debacle going on in Washington, the need for life-saving services is increasing on a daily basis. I look forward to working with the committee on outreach to ensure that every Rhode Island resident is counted and that we do not lose out on critical funding and services from Washington," said Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).
The Committee's outreach strategy will include--but is not limited to--initiatives to encourage participation in the 2020 Census, the establishment and support of school-based outreach programs, partnerships with non-profit community-based organizations and a multi-lingual, multi-media campaign designed to ensure an accurate and complete count of Rhode Island's population.
"There is a lot at stake for Rhode Island with the 2020 Census, including millions of dollars in vital federal funding, said Jessica David, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Community Investments at the Rhode Island Foundation. "This is the time for the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to join together to ensure that every Rhode Islander is counted. We are confident that formation of the Statewide Complete Count Committee will aid in that effort."
The Committee will collaborate and coordinate with the United States Bureau of the Census and any other complete count committees established in the State of Rhode Island as they identify and execute their outreach strategy.